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School CP - October 2001

Corpun file 7882 at


The Straits Times, Singapore, 8 October 2001

Did Mr Gopal do the right thing?

Yes, say many readers who back his actions to cane boys. About 80 per cent of those who wrote to The Straits Times said parents should not shield children from punishment

By Tracy Quek

SPARE the rod and spoil the child -- that seems to be the consensus among readers who reacted to Fajar Secondary's caning of 41 male students.

Put caning in context, said Mr Gopal, who wants his pupils to take their work seriously. -- LAU FOOK KONG

An overwhelming majority of the 82 readers who wrote or e-mailed The Straits Times about the incident supported the principal's decision to cane the boys for skipping tests in August.

And those 66 readers had this to add: Parents whose children break rules and misbehave in school should not be over-protective or shield them from being punished.

The 16 readers who objected to the caning said it was not the right way to discipline errant students.

The boys, all Secondary 4 and 5 boys at the school in Bukit Panjang, were given two strokes each because they broke a school rule which states that students who skip classes will be caned.

The students, some of whom have been disciplined before, did not have a good reason for their no-show.

One e-mail on the caning was from freelance accountant Vickie Lee, 34, who has two boys aged five and eight.

She said: 'If these students are not disciplined properly, they will become worse. It's better to get them frightened and embarrassed for what they have done now than when it's too late.'

Another parent, housewife Mira Edora Hussain, said in another message: 'Counselling alone will not solve all problems. I cane my young boys when necessary.'

Parents Adrian Goh and Azhan Zainal urged other parents not to be too quick to blame the school. Mr Azhan said in an e-mail message: 'As parents, we should be guided by right and wrong, and not get emotionally defensive. A child should be taught to face the music.'

The 16 who did not approve of the caning said it does not solve discipline problems.

Reader Royce Tan said in an e-mail: 'There are so many other ways to penalise students. Caning will not make them any more responsible.'

In another e-mail, Mr Wong Tuck Wah, 47, a general manager of NTUC Denticare who has one child, a 13-year-old son in Secondary 1, described caning as 'taking a step backwards'.

When Fajar's principal, Mr Saminathan Gopal, was told how readers responded, he said: 'We touched some raw nerves. But people must see the context of the caning. We are trying to get the students to study consistently and to take tests seriously.'

He added that the school is now helping the students prepare for their exams.

Educational psychologist Ong Kwee Hiong explained the split in views on the caning: 'Many parents who can't control their children want the school to take over the parenting. From my experience, parents who want to do their own parenting and who want to be responsible for ensuring their children's good behaviour would not want the school to discipline their children on their behalf.'

But she added: 'What is more important is for the school to get to the root of students' behaviour.

'I'd want to know why they skipped class even though the consequences are so clearly spelt out. If it's defiance, they need to be punished. But if they were afraid of failing, that must be addressed.'


'Dealing with my son at home is not easy. I can imagine how frustrated teachers can get having to handle a class of 40. Sometimes, scoldings don't work. When that fails, some kind of punishment should be used to maintain order and to get kids to be obedient.'

-- Housewife Madam Chia Mei Chee, in her late 40s, who has one son who is a Secondary 1 student


'Stop shielding your child if he's made a mistake. Listen to both sides of the story, then draw your conclusions. The fault does not always lie with the teachers.'

-- Mr Adrian Goh, a parent, via e-mail


'I strongly believe the parent should receive double his son's punishment to get things straightened out in his mind.'

-- Mr Stephen Neo, via e-mail, on the parent who complained about the caning


'I'd want to know why they skipped class even though the consequences are so clearly spelt out. If it's defiance, they need to be punished. If they were afraid of failing, that must be addressed.'-- Educational psychologist Ong Kwee Hiong

Copyright © 2001 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved

Corpun file 7883 at


Straits Times Interactive Chat, 11 October 2001


Caning: An effective way to discipline students?


The principal at Fajar Secondary in Bukit Panjang caned 41 Secondary 4 and 5 boys who skipped common tests last month.

One parent was unhappy with the caning and wrote to The Straits Times to complain. The parent, who did not give his name, said his son felt humiliated after the caning and was reluctant to go to school after the incident.

Is corporal punishment an effective way to discipline errant students? Share your views or tell us about your brushes with disciplinary masters

galaxia01 - 09:33pm Sep 24, 2001 SGT

Students must be told why they are being caned

I'm of the old "Spare the rod and spoil the child'" school of thought. But I feel that students must be told why they are being caned otherwise they might think that they are being punished just for punishment's sake.

Fajar Secondary did the right thing but coupling caning with counselling.

  arw100 - 10:55pm Sep 24, 2001 SGT

shame on you,the parent!

I read the report that the child did not sit for 4 or 5 subjects and the parent still has the cheek to complain about the school disciplining the child - what was the parent doing? sleeping? Whose child was that, by the way? I think the parent ought to be caned too!

  UncleFai - 10:31am Sep 25, 2001 SGT

The plight of neighbourhood schools

A friend of mine, a teacher in a neighbourhood secondary school, told me this incident: a girl was seen mixing around with the wrong crowd and misbehaving. So the form teacher called up the parents. The mother came, complaining that she is very busy why the school suka suka call her. Then the teacher told her of that her daughter is problematic and mixing with the sam-seng. The mother shot back, "she not pregnant yet wat, why you so kan cheong... waste my time!"

Bo huat tor...

Make sure you die die also send your kids to private or independent schools.

rakyat - 11:03am Sep 25, 2001 SGT

There should be a Ministry for The Education Of Parents!

Is the social divide getting bigger or what? We hear of some parents who bundle their 3-year olds to phonics class, Mandarin Class, Tumble Tots, Drama Class, Kumon Maths, Computer Appreciation, Dance, Suzuki Violin and Piano.

Then there are parents who don't even care that their children are playing truant!!

Exgen - 09:55pm Sep 26, 2001 SGT

Let's Prioritize

rakyat, no need to kan cheong.

There should be a Ministry for The Education Of Ministers FIRST!

Ministers rushing for $, so, parents also rush for $, children also rush for $, how? Top-down approach. Skin those top cats alive.

rakyat - 04:43pm Sep 27, 2001 SGT

Exgen - ministers do not need more education .......

they are already so-o-o-o educated ...... all from foreign universities, with multiple postgraduate degrees, with executive courses, military training - their whole lives are spent being "educated" .......... they are all "zhuang yuan" .....

PiggyAng - 01:32am Sep 25, 2001 SGT

Let the school do its job!

I fully support the principal's decision to cane the students. Speaking from experience, I was being caned for getting into a fight with my classmates during my primary school days. That was almost 16 years ago but the it still remained vivid in my mind. I never blamed my discipline master's action in doing that, in fact I am grateful that he did that. It has definitely make me a better person. I believe that a too "soft approach" in dealing with problem students does not always works, and sometime "hard approach" like caning might do the job. I hope that parents should not complain too much and should give the school more "room" to discipline their children. That is the purpose of going schooling. To broaden one's knowledge and at the same time cultivate good character and integrity.

fairley - 08:08am Sep 25, 2001 SGT

Who is in charge when parents are "absent"?

Sad to say, there are many parents, who expect schools to teach their children academic subjects BUT will make a huge fuss when schools try to enforce discipline.

School discipline is necessary for building of life skills. Ill disciplined students will disrupt classes and affect the efforts of teachers and other students to gain from formal education.

I fully support discipline by school principals within the guidelines established by the Ministry of Education. Punishment must be coupled by counselling so that the full "positive" effect of the disciplinary action can obtained. Punishment of a few will ensure the good conduct of the majority.

bolehtahan - 11:35am Sep 25, 2001 SGT

The child dare to feel humiliated? Stupid parent! reap what you sow!

If a child does something wrong at a young age and he is not disciplined. He'll only get worse!

The gall of the parent to say his son felt humiliated...ha! he should thank the principal for that two strokes of caning for his errant son!

If the boy cannot take two stroke of the cane for misbehaving...he must be a girl! How to go for National Service? Sure cry baby-lah!

Some parents's just not worth helping them get their child back on the right tracks. The only problem is if the kid turns bad, not only his parents bear the brunt of his nonsense but society as a whole has to bear with him!

I think the parents ought to have their heads examined! bodoh! Unless of course they are equally ill-disciplined, and rowdy sort! Then it is understandable.

crazyazn - 11:22pm Sep 25, 2001 SGT


I got caned a lot in School too. It really pissed me off. I remained pissed off throughout my Sec school. I bunked a lot, four months one time, School did not know, Parents did not know either, I had my way. They are good parents. Never got a letter for bunking or caned. Only got caned for other idiotic things the teachers thought were bad. Had a couple of good teachers who used to talk to me properly. Learnt a lot from them and cooled down. So, Dialogue is the way. If the teaches cannot communicate with the pupils, they have to find a way to do it. If 40+ students gets caned, something is definitely wrong with the school!!! Counselling is still the best way. And why were the girls left out!!!!! As the principal mentioned it was posted everywhere and also in the students handbook- They should have got some female teacher to do the caning in presence of a Female Supervisor from the Ministry of Education. If you cane one, you better cane all. It seems in a lot of situations, the females are let of lightly. Excuse me!!!! But please give us equality. If 100% of the girls who did not show up for the tests got to do community services the boys should have got that as well.

bolehtahan - 10:55am Sep 26, 2001 SGT

Aiyah boys are boys and girls are girls even the Courts don't cane women!

Even the courts do not cane women ...maybe Ossama or the Talibans do that ...but here we do have two sets of rules One for the boys and one for the girls.

But if the boys can't take two strokes of the cane, than they must be girls.

Indeed there are some schools where the students are quite belligerent and they believe in strength in numbers and will go all out to defy the teacher...not 'creative streak' or anything like that you know you know ....but rather "herd instinct in defiance!" So they've got to be disciplined enmass!

a_concerned_american - 12:41pm Sep 26, 2001 SGT

I wished they caned in America


I am an American who wishes American would use such discipline...maybe only one stroke! When American Michael fae was Caned in Singapore a few years ago, I contacted my congressman and the president and told them that Michael Fae should receive the same penalty that any citizen of Singapore would receive. He broke the law in your country and should be treated the same.

Chinook - 04:10pm Sep 27, 2001 SGT

I would can the teacher too...

If a student skipped a test, he has a problem. But if 41 student skipped a test, than the teacher also has a problem. So, witch one should be can first?

Students should do their work, and not spend the money of their parents, by wasting their time in school. But they also need a leader. Someone who can motivate them to a goal they might not see clearly at this time.

But I am a practical man, and I think it would save time and money, to can the teacher first, rather than 41 students. If he cannot motivate his student to work and study, canning the student will not solve the problem.

When you are ready to use any form of violence, this mean you don't know how to explain yourself, how to make other people understand what you mean. In fact, you don't know how to teach them. Maybe you don't know witch words to use, or maybe you are talking to people who cannot understand.

In either ways, knowledge does not get into the mind by the butt. Only fear get in your heart by this way. If I was the teacher of this class, I would certainly take a moment, to find where I missed, and not where I should can...

bolehtahan - 12:40pm Sep 29, 2001 SGT

No sparing the rod for their own good.

Whilst it may be true that some teacher s may think of very constructive methods to rectify situations like the e.g given by other writers (redbean) "repair all the broken chairs " after the kids broke them while playing Bruce Lee.

That is not a good enough penalty as it is tantamount to "ok kids put your toys in the right order after playing with them."

However the kids must also learn there is a penalty to be paid in life and as they grow up the penalty for their nonsense will be stricter. For example, If they go touching and molesting girls it means caning and jail.

You can't "untouch a touch" or "repair a touch" So better that they learn and understand about discipline. The teachers job is not to let them remain as kids...their job is also to help them understand what this world is like, and what society expects of them in terms of their behaviour, and to grow up!

Expending energies can be done in the area of sports and recreation like hiking and roller blading etc not vandalism or vandalising school property.

deathage2000 - 05:32pm Sep 29, 2001 SGT

Singapore education free. That why people complain. If expensive sure no complain.

Because they think free of charge mean no good. Pay at a high fee mean the school are good.

deathage2000 - 05:35pm Sep 29, 2001 SGT

Of course. Private school will never cane you child. You are a rice bowl to him.

Government school teacher don't get pay by you. That why they cane you. The private school teach love as they love your money. Customer service officers. Make the customer happy.!!!!!

Kix - 01:26am Sep 30, 2001 SGT

School's not at fault.

believe it's only right that schools take action against students who constantly challenge the school system. what are those students trying to show, by skipping tests?

The parent who wrote in to complain had his/ her child caned. But, shouldn't the parent be happy, that at least the school still bother to help discipline the boy?

And instead of being thankful, the parent is complaining. Well, i think, the parent should only do that if he/ she thinks that he/ she has got a better idea on how to discipline his/ her son.

nordichomie - 04:42pm Oct 1, 2001 SGT


The cane should not be in use at all in the first place. Caning, in this case, is used on students who skipped their classes and common tests. Personally, this should have not been the case. I know that many principals and disciplinarians use them on students whom they find "from the dark side" and cannot be helped but to be embarrassed and humiliated in order to change. If that is what you think then you're wrong. Firstly, this makes the student hate you and want to do it some more to feel satisfied and make you angry. The phrase "spare the rod and spoil the child" is to childish people who think that it works. I read in the papers that parents seem to find it the right thing to do. What kind of parents are you guys? Do you know that it is the up bringing of the child that he is like this now. All along when the student joins a gang or plays truant or is rude to a teacher is the consequence of a wrong up bringing and that the child has not learnt his or her values from the parents. I might be only a secondary three student but it is easier to see it from my point of view the humiliation in front of teachers and fellow students. I personally have not felt the pain of a cane but it is because my parents have brought me up to be a mannerable and sensible person to know what is right and wrong. I find that the best way is not the cane but the parents being there for their children and teaching them good values because in the end it is the parents who should be caning themselves before they even lay a finger on the child. Therefore, I conclude this with the saying "SPARE THE ROD AND LOVE YOUR CHILD" this is the best solution.

wetterer - 05:11pm Oct 1, 2001 SGT

nordichomie -- who as a student wants the cane???

and you did say that you are in sec 3. not every family has parents as good as yours. and not every kid is as good mannarable and sensible as you.

and i don't think that you are that sensible to the plights of the other families and also the situations where the cane should be used.

so your parents may not be using the cane on you, but are also against the school using the cane on the students. the situation may be different. i do not use cane on my kids, but i would not interfere with the school using cane on students(not unless it causes un-warranted physical damage). because i understand that for school to be effective, they must have some "upper hand" over the students, especially for recalcitrants. perhaps, arguments here may not proof the point that "spare the rod, and spoil the kid" is after all not so childish. we may have to do some real study on this in order to see whether it's more effective with the cane or without it, on a sample of former students from schools ranging from the best to the worst. the simple questions to ask these former students:

did you get the cane during your school days?

if yes, why?

if yes, what do you think?

and also ask some boys/girls in the correction centers to see whether they did receive the cane in school.

well, just my standing thoughts.

it sure will make some basis to quash once and for all the merits and de-merits of caning.

nordichomie - 08:09pm Oct 2, 2001 SGT

I am not interfering with the school's policy of caning students when necessary. If the school feels that one should be punished, then go ahead. But what I was trying to say was that if the parents had been there when their children needed them, then they would not need to be punished. So my conclusion for all this is that if the parents were there for their children, then nothing like this would have happened. As for the different kinds of family situations, when a student knows he has problems at home, he should be sensible and considerate enough not to add to the problems. So I'm sorry if you don't agree or misunderstood my point of view.

clacker - 02:29am Oct 4, 2001 SGT

caning for life.

Caning is a necessary and useful tool in the modern education of young children.

Errant children need to learn at a young age that misbehaviour or inadvertent mistakes may result in violence. On top of caning teachers should ridicule the children in front of the class so as to reduce their self-esteem. Phrases such as "you not so clever now are you?" and "ooh..I wouldn't' like to be your bottom?" are the particular types of comments which a teacher could use after a serious caning.

Should the caning be fatal, the teacher should immediately cane all the children in the class so as to remind them not to talk to the authorities. Another fatality may be used at this stage as an extra deterrent.

Having been a teacher in Kazakhstan for over 15 years, I have found the above techniques essential in maintaining respect for teachers despite the fact that class discussion is often curtailed. But then, there's nothing a good caning can't help! (a touch of caning humour).

I hope that these points have been useful and should you need to any further advice on specific caning techniques or situations in which caning is necessary (oh and there's lots) please do not hesitate to contact me.

cedarwood - 07:25pm Oct 4, 2001 SGT

Caning should be allowed but not encouraged

Caning in school may be a necessary practice because sometimes the kids are so naughty and there is just no other way to discipline them. But it should be used reluctantly as a last resort.

If the student's discipline in school is so bad, it is usually a sign that the students have problems at home already.

Ultimately, I think parents are the ones who should be responsible for the behaviour of the kids. Given that they brought them into this world, they should spend the time to cultivate the kids so that they do not become a problem. At home, with more time with the kids, one should refrain from using the cane. If there is a need to resort to caning, I think, it is an indication that the parents have not been bringing up the kids in the right way. I believe, the parent child relationship if cultivated well should create lots of respect and love for each other so that there is hardly any need for caning. There should be lots of understanding between a parent and a child, much like two good friends but the parent should be able to influence and guide the child and be a positive role model.

But if parents themselves are not able to guide the children well, then the burden will be felt by the teachers in school. Teachers have limited time and with many students under their charge, there is going to be a greater reliance on caning. But lets not adopt an across the board type of rules that we should or should not cane. I think a lot will need to depend on the specific circumstances and the teacher should not treat every child as if they are interchangeable, as if they are all the same. There is a need to look deeper and understand the children's act of defiance, whether there are extenuating circumstances or not.

Well, sometimes even the teacher himself/herself may contribute to the problem. It could be his/her style of teaching, of disciplining that cause so many of his/her students to stay away. Parents should take the trouble to find out from their kids what is the real reason that they are absent from the test and not straight away assume that their kids are at fault.

Corpun file 7984 at


The New Paper, Singapore, 18 October 2001

How did Mr Monster become human?

After students read about stern teacher in school's e-newspaper


THE e-newspaper includes both audio and video. It's like the personal websites you can have, like My Yahoo or My CNN.

Students and staff are given a user name and a password to access the monthly newspaper.

Media consultant and former journalist from The Straits Times, Mr Ravi Veloo, set up last September.

Each school pays between $3,000 and $4,000 a month as subscription, said Mr Velloo.

Each 30-page edition consists of 10 pages of stories which are specific to the particular school.

The other 20 pages are generic, devoted to books, music and movie reviews, as well as opinion pieces.

MR BLACKHEART: Mr Zainudin Ali showing how fierce he can be. But he has his soft spots too. Reports & pictures/BEN NADARAJAN

STUDENTS call him Mr Blackheart. He is Canberra Secondary School's discipline master. With a stern and stony face which will make even the toughest of gangsters break out in cold sweat.
When he strides onto the stage during morning assembly, the hush that spreads across the hall is deafening.
So it is no surprise that when one mentions his name, students cringe.
But after Mr Zainudin Ali, 55, was featured in the school's multimedia Internet newspaper in February, things changed.
The "monster" they all feared suddenly seemed to be very human after all.
Canberra started having its own monthly e-newspaper in February.
It was set up with the help of, an educational publication company.
Mr Zainudin laughed when he said: "I think that after the article came out, more and more students came to understand why I have to be so strict with them."
Simon, a Secondary 2 student who didn't want to give his full name, said: "When Mr Z canes me, it really hurts. And I always get very angry with him after that.
"But after reading the story, I came to realise there is a nice side to him, too, and that he really cares for the students."
The story on Mr Z, as he is commonly known, shed light on his childhood struggle.
Mr Z was the eldest of 10 siblings. His family was so poor the children all had to sleep in one room.
He said: "Being the eldest, I had to be the role model for my other siblings.
"So, perhaps, that explains why I fit the role of a discipline master perfectly."
Principal Puvan Ariaratnam said: "The e-newspaper allows the school to see a different perspective of the person featured, compared to what we always think about the person."
And Mr Zainudin agrees. "Never judge a book by its cover," he said.
"I look very fierce. But I have my soft spots too.
"If a student has problems at home, I will make exceptions for him or her."
A student, who wanted to be known only as Jane, said: "There was a time I was having some problems at home.
"Mr Zainudin actually sat down with me to listen to my problems and helped me to try and solve them."
Mr Zainudin added that his job was very tough when the school opened last year.
"A new school in a new area will always have a lot of discipline problems.
"But I think I have shown what level of discipline is expected of our students," he said.

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